Casey Baseel

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Casey Baseel spent his formative years staring in frustration at un-subtitled Japanese TV programming shown on Southern California’s international channel. Taking matters into his own hands, he moved to Tokyo to study the language, then found work in Yokohama a decade ago teaching, translating, and marketing hotels he can’t afford to stay in. When not participating in the eternal cycle of exercising to burn the calories form his love of Japanese food, Casey scours used comic and game shops for forgotten classics, drags his wife around the country in a quest to visit all its castles, sings karaoke not nearly as well as he thinks he does, and counts the days until the summertime bars open on Enoshima Beach.

All Stories by Casey Baseel

The Secret Slang of Japanese Cabbies

Like many people who moved to Tokyo in their youth, most of the time I’ve spent in Japanese taxi cabs has been directly preceded by heavy drinking. In the country’s urban centers, people primarily get around by train and subway. However, both of them stop running around midnight (for now?), at which time you can see a mass of people stumbling towards the station like Cinderella if she’d spent less time on the dance floor with the prince and more at the ball’s open bar. Once the trains stop, they don’t start again until about five in the morning, and since staying out all night drinking only seems like a good idea until your buzz wears off at around 2:30 a.m., if you missed the last train the only way you’re getting home is by taking a taxi.

Like taking a cab ride anywhere else in the world, the drivers use radios to communicate with the dispatcher and other cars in the fleet. I could never understand what Japanese taxi drivers were saying to each other, but the reason why isn’t because I was liquored up (OK, so it wasn’t only because I was liquored up). It turns out cab drivers in Japan have a whole set of jargon and code words that you won’t find in any textbooks. Read More

Japanese Electronics Shoppers Create Works of Art on Floor Samples

With nearly all of today’s graphic, comic, and animation design work being digital, any serious artist needs a graphic tablet. These are large LCD screens that can be drawn on directly with a stylus allowing for easy uploading and computer editing of the created image.

Like most electronics chains in Japan, Yodobashi Camera has sections of its stores where customers can try out the latest products, graphic tablets included. Most of us would probably be content to scribble a few lines, doodle a stick figure, or maybe add a splash of color. But like finding a novel filled with dozens of fleshed-out characters and a gripping narrative left on Word in the laptop section, seriously talented artists have been creating true works of art on Yodobashi’s graphic tablet floor samples. Read More

Korean Remote Controlled Turtle Project Making Slow But Steady Progress

One year when I was in junior high school my parents gave me a radio controlled car for Christmas. It was the perfect gift for a young boy right in the middle of dealing with the most awkward, confusing psychological change that comes with puberty (no longer thinking riding a bike is cool, but still being too young to drive a car). I loved that R/C car, so much that I kept playing with it outside as it started to rain one day, eventually frying the circuits so that it never ran again.

But things would have been different if my parents had been researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, or KAIST. First, everyone would have been surprised by how two Korean scientists ended up with a Caucasian son with blond hair. And next, they could have hooked me up with a controllable water-resistant reptile, like the remote controlled turtle KAIST is currently developing. Read More

Hungry for Justice (and Bento), Alleged Kobe Thief Turns Himself In

Hyogo Prefecture has a bit of a reputation for culinary excellence. Besides being the home of Kobe beef, it’s also famous for French and Chinese cuisine, along with boasting some of Japan’s best octopus. But could Hyogo’s food be so good that alleged criminals would give up their freedom for it?

On May 12, police at the Nagata Ward Precinct in Kobe took a suspected thief into custody. The unemployed 32-year-old man, whose name has been withheld, turned himself in, saying, “I want to eat the tasty food Nagata Precinct serves prisoners in its holding cells.” Read More

Vietnamese Trade Ao Dai for Anime-Inspired Uniforms and Collars at Ho Chi Minh City’s First Locally-Owned Maid Café

One of the most enduring images of Japanese pop culture in the past few years is that of the maid café, where customers are served by waitresses with personalities to match the careful craftsmanship of their cute, frill-covered outfits. Maid cafes have become something of a cultural export, popping up in the U.S., Canada, and, as RocketNews24 previously showcased, Russia. The phenomenon has also reached Southeast Asia, as showcased by reporters from website Post Seven who recently visited a maid café in Vietnam.

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Let It Rip with Japanese Company’s Stress-Relieving Notepad

The company Edit, based in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, produces a variety of notebooks. Most of them come with specialized forms on each page, such as a cooking notebook with separate boxes for ingredient names, amounts, and cooking directions. The company’s more unique offerings include a pitcher’s notebook with a three-by-three grid to mark each throw as high or low, inside or outside, and a horse racing journal to record bets, wins (hopefully), and losses (inevitably).

The pages of Edit’s newest big seller are completely blank, though. What’s more, if customers follow the instructions for using it, they’ll never be able to refer back to what they wrote, because the pages are designed to feel good as you rip them into shreds. Read More

Saudi Arabian Reporter Floored by Things Japanese Take for Granted

The Saudi Arabian television program Hawatel Kaizen (a combination of the Arabic word for “thoughts” and the Japanese for “improvement”) is a series of reports by Arabic reporters in which they share things they have been impressed by in Japan. A Japanese TV show in turn did a feature on Hawatel Kaizen, in which the panel of Japanese TV personalities were amused by the enthusiastic responses of Saudi reporter, Ahmad, to things Japanese citizens take for granted.

So in an effort to be as international as possible, RocketNews24 brings you an English recap of a Japanese TV program reacting to another program in which a Saudi Arabian reporter reacts to Japan. Read More

Original Japanese Kirby Was Even Less Hardcore

No discussion of the pantheon of video game heroes is complete without mentioning HAL Laboratory’s Kirby. Including his recently-released 20th anniversary collection, the adorable pink puffball has close to two dozen appearances under his belt, which is an impressive feat for someone who lacks a waist.

Kirby has also gotten a bit of free publicity from website TV Tropes, with its “American Kirby is Hardcore” entry, which catalogues how the images of Kirby and other fictional characters are “toughened up” in marketing to make them more appealing to U.S. audiences.

In recent years, Kirby’s earned enough gamer goodwill to be as cute as he wants to in any market. Even still, we’re guessing he would have had a tough time of it initially in overseas markets if HAL had stuck with the character’s original name. Read More

Evangelion Director Shocks the Anime World Without Making a Movie Where Everyone Turns Into Tang

With two feature films set to debut before the end of the year, you’d have thought Studio Ghibli grabbed as much media attention as possible. But the venerated anime production house managed to put itself even more squarely in the spotlight with the announcement regarding its upcoming feature film Kaze Tachinu, or The Wind Rises.

The film’s main character will not be voiced by a veteran voice actor. That in itself isn’t so surprising, considering Ghibli’s past casting of singers and Japanese drama stars, Takuya Kimura and Junichi Okada, for the heroes of its previous movies, Howl’s Moving Castle, Tales from Earthsea, and 2011’s From Up On Poppy Hill. Like them, the lead male voice actor for The Wind Rises is a famous member of the entertainment industry with hordes of fans. However, many of them don’t know what he sounds like, because the main character will be played by Evangelion director Hideaki Anno. Read More

Who Needs a Cherry on Top? Osaka Café Crowns its Parfaits with Cake

Tokyo’s restaurants may have more Michelin stars, but for many Japanese foodies, the real culinary action is in Osaka. Particularly if your tastes run more towards good honest grub than haute cuisine, Japan’s second largest city is the place to be.

The people of Osaka enjoy a good meal so much that they coined the phrase kuidaore, to eat until you collapse. But even with this image firmly entrenched in our minds, the city has found a new way to surprise us with its gastronomic decadence.

On a recent day out in Osaka, our reporter stopped by a café and ordered a truly hard-core parfait. It wasn’t that the parfait was so big, and no, it didn’t contain any shocking ingredients. What blew our minds about this parfait was its topping.

It was a slice of cake, and it was so big it wasn’t even trying to fit into the glass.

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99-Year-Old Tea Shop Offers Something New: Green Tea Beer

Being in Japan gives you plenty of opportunities to knock back a beer. The country is filled with pubs, and alcohol consumptions is so accepted that should you tell people, flat-out, “My hobby is drinking,” they’re more likely to ask you to recommend a good bar than to stage an intervention. At the same time, Japan has countless places to sip a relaxing cup of tea, whether it’s the strong, frothy variety used in tea ceremonies called matcha, or hojicha, for which the green tea leaves are roasted before steeping. But with two tempting beverage choices to relax with and only so many hours in the day, how can anyone be expected to choose between tea and beer? As it turns out, you don’t have to. Read More

New Dating Sim Follows Time-Tested Story Blueprint of Boy Meets Alpaca

Video games have made pretty steady progress into the cultural mainstream. Even people who aren’t gamers themselves can at least see the entertainment potential of a Mario title with its breezy fun, or the sweeping adventure of a Final Fantasy.

A genre many people have a harder time wrapping their heads around, though, is the dating simulator. Sure, driving games like Gran Turismo let us tune and race cars so expensive we can’t even talk the dealer into giving us a test drive in real life. And while Japan does have a royal family with princesses, the country’s lack of fire-breathing dragons means our chances of having to pick up sword and shield to go rescue them are slim, at best. But a game about going on dates? Couldn’t we just, like, ask someone out in real life?

Apparently some developers feel the same way, and have decided to spice up their dating sims with scenarios that take full advantage of video games’ unique style of escapism. Read More

How Your Lazy Coworker is Like a Can of Vegetable Juice

Despite Japan’s famously strong work ethic, even offices here have some employees who coast through the day, oblivious to their more industrious coworkers who exasperatedly wonder how their paychecks remain so similar when their levels of dedication are anything but.

Economist Taiichi Kogure touches on some of these points in his latest work, The Mindset of People Who Will Always Have Low Salaries, which hit bookshelves in Japan last month. Inspired by the book, Livedoor News posted the following editorial analogy based on Kogure’s concepts, titled “Your Salary Isn’t Determined by Your Efforts or Value.” Read More

Somehow ‘Makankosappo’ Now Has Two Different Meanings in Japanese

Wait, do ordinary Japanese schoolgirls really have superpowers? I guess 80 percent of all the anime ever produced wasn’t lying to us…

One day a high school student, known as Chanman on her Twitter account, was hanging out in one of her school’s classrooms with some friends. Just for kicks, one of them struck a fighting pose, while the others leapt into the air as if being tossed back by a blast of chi or psychic energy. One of the girls snapped a picture, which Chanman tweeted to her followers, starting the country’s newest Internet trend.

Chanman and her friends aren’t a group of photography auteurs. This was something they did for fun, so she felt the picture needed a silly, nonsensical battle cry to go with it. Of course, coming up with a funny sounding word from scratch isn’t quite as easy as it seems. Quiquiriqui? That’s now already accepted as the Spanish version of “cockle-doodle-doo.” Cucamonga? A city in suburban Southern California. Heck, I’m still surprised “jackassery” is listed in Webster’s Dictionary, although it is the single most succinct and accurate term to describe most of my life decisions.

In the end, Chanman settled on “makankosappo.”

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Today’s Reason to Come to Japan: Free Curry Refills

Big eaters in Japan have a saying: “Curry and rice isn’t something you eat. It’s something you drink.” And as with any beverage, nothing’s better than free refills.

We’ve talked about it before, but it’s worth repeating. The Japanese curry chain CoCo Ichibanya (also known as just CoCo Ichi), provides a free refill of curry sauce to any customer one who asks for it. Read More

Special Edition Ultraman Popsicles May or May Not Melt in Three Minutes

My wife, in her infinite patience, has taught me several things about Japanese culture. Thanks to her, I’m familiar with the proper way to offer incense at a grave, and also how important it is to bring a little present to your neighbors on all sides when moving into a new apartment.

But perhaps the lesson with the biggest impact on my daily life was when she taught me just how good Gari Gari-kun popsicles are. Read More

Beef = Breasts? Model Claims Burgers Ballooned Her Bust

Japanese model Eri Sakurai says she has stumbled across a way to increase her breast size without resorting to cosmetic surgery. The 30-year-old credits a sudden temporary chest inflation in her past to the unlikely superfood of McDonald’s hamburgers. Read More

The Arduous Audition Process to Become a Cold Stone Japan Part-Timer

Among the many myths about Japan is the one that goes, “Japanese people don’t like sweet foods.” The success of Arizona-based ice cream chain Cold Stone here is proof positive that Japan has as big a sweet tooth as any other nation.

With branches stretching from Hokkaido in the north to Kyushu in the south, Cold Stone Japan requires a steady inflow of part-time workers. But as you might expect from a business that makes all of its profits selling a product no one needs but almost everyone enjoys, the interview process is a little different from the one at other workplaces. Read More

Okayama Bus Company Encourages People to Look at its Newest Employee While They Wash Themselves

Okayama Prefecture lies in west Japan, three and a half hours from Tokyo by bullet train. Known for its castle, 17th century garden, and folktale of Momotaro the Peach Boy, it’s a laid-back, slow-paced kind of place, so we can understand the difficulties local bus operator Ryobi Group faces in trying to promote the region as a travel destination for young people.

So Ryobi has made the cornerstone of its newest marketing campaign something young Japanese males will enjoy: a bus tour guide who’s also a cute anime idol. Read More

How to be Popular with Japanese Girls in Seven Steps

I think I speak for all of the male writers here at RocketNews24 when I say that we have no trouble finding dates. For example, I’m so attractive that I have to beat women off with a stick. Or, was it that the last woman I asked out beat me with a stick? Sorry, my memory is a little fuzzy these days. Probably from being hit in the head with sticks.

But for our loyal readers who lack my powerful pheromones (B.O. is a kind of pheromone, right?), we present seven tips for attracting girls in Japan, as originally compiled by Niconico News.

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